Rated: 13+ · Book · Biographical · #2257228
Tales from real life
|Well, if they're not true, they oughta be!|
My commercial aviation career took a zig in 1995, when I transferred from facilities factory support to customer support as a maintenance manual author. As a Facilities Engineer, I prepared purchase specifications and wrote project status reports. I'd become comfortable with Word for Windows and I loved its WYSIWYG display (what you see is what you get). Seeing different fonts on the screen was a novel experience for someone who'd cut their word processing teeth on the original Wordstar program for CP/M. The proprietary publishing system used for the maintenance manuals seemed like a giant step backward. The minicomputer that held the actual data was accessed through green-screen terminals that were hopelessly outdated compared to a desktop computer running Windows 95. And the maintenance manual author didn't even use that ancient terminal technology.
Data entry personnel did the actual typing, while I reverted all the way back to colored pencils. As an author, I analyzed engineering drawings, wiring diagrams, and vendor documentation (all paper) and turned them into step-by-step procedures for the airline mechanic. My original hand-written text was entered into the publishing system by a data entry clerk and then printed on fanfold paper, double spaced, for my approval. Editing was done with red pencil for deletions, blue pencil for additions, and green pencil for editorial comments.
You might wonder why we used a proprietary minicomputer, and why the text was formatted as a database rather than a document. The answer is configuration control. Creating an aircraft maintenance manual is a complex process. Each model has its own base manual that fills an entire bookcase. Each airline has its own customized set of manuals, and the current configuration of each airplane in the entire worldwide fleet must be tracked per FAA regulations. Microsoft Word wasn't (still isn't) anywhere close to being able to handle the database-like requirements of tracking airplane configurations.
Thankfully, things changed quickly in those early years of computing technology. By 1997, we all had desktop PCs with terminal emulation programs. We could enter our own data and display the simulated manual pages on-screen instead of wasting reams of paper. The downside was the wear and tear of spending hours hammering away at the keyboard.
Ergonomics was just a funny sounding word in those days. Few of us really believed in carpal tunnel syndrome, it was something that shirkers used as an excuse to get out of work. No one understood the effects of an awkwardly laid out workstation. I had a keyboard and a state of the art 19" CRT on my desk. No keyboard tray, no ergonomic chair, just an upward reach to a mouse that kept my wrist bent at a near 90-degree angle.
It took several years, but eventually I developed enough pain in my wrist that work became almost intolerable. Even then, I never saw a doctor. That would've been a show of weakness. Instead, I learned to mouse left-handed. That allowed me to solve the problem on my own. It worked out better than might be expected. I quickly gained left hand dexterity and mousing felt normal again in a couple of weeks. The pain in my right wrist subsided and I finally submitted to an ergonomic evaluation of my workstation. A better layout helped preserve my left wrist, and it remains pain-free. The damage to my right wrist, however, is permanent. I can mouse equally well with either hand, but the pain returns in a few days if I use my right hand. So, I know what I'm going to do with the time I have left.
|I think most writers feel that getting published is the ultimate validation of their work. It makes that subtle difference between saying 'I write' and 'I'm a writer'. I was thrilled when my first submission was accepted by an online science fiction magazine. The money was minimal, but actually seeing my name in print would be priceless. Unfortunately, my story was scheduled for issue #5 and the magazine folded after issue #4. I'm still unpublished, but I'll always have this:
Hello, my name is Kip Shelton, Editor-in-Chief here at Synthetic Reality Magazine. We really enjoyed your story and wanted to include it in issue #5 coming out on March 26th.
As a new magazine unfortunately, we can only pay .01 per word and in contributor's copies, which we send 3 to the writers. I realize that this is not much, but as we progress and grow, we will offer better. If this is acceptable to you, please let me know and I will make the Social Media announcements and have our graphics team add your name to the cover. After we receive your approval, we will be sending you a contract for the release of Song of the Vamp.
Once again, thank you for submitting to Synthetic Reality Magazine and we hope to hear from you soon.
Kip Shelton / Editor
It occurred to me recently that getting a story accepted is only a part of the writing experience. So, to expand my stock of life experiences, I decided to submit some other pieces. And I can now proudly display rejections from a couple of well-respected magazines.
Thank you very much for letting us see "The Veybach Machine." We appreciate your taking the time to send it in for our consideration. Although it does not suit the needs of the magazine at this time, we wish you luck with placing it elsewhere.
Sheila Williams, Editor
Pronouns: she, her
Asimov's Science Fiction
Dear Mr. Fisher,
Thank you for sending me your poem. Thanks, too, for your kind comments about the Meter column.
Although I enjoyed reading "Cosmic Counterpoints," I'm sorry to say I'm going to pass. Response to the Meter column has been so robust that I'm forced to say "no" far more often than I anticipated, or than I'd like.
Again gratefully, and with regret,
An item about fecal matter on NYC sidewalks popped up in the newsfeed this week. The description of what New Yorkers are stepping in reminded me of a friend and coworker who preferred to go to the office barefoot.
I met Gerry McDougal in 1995 when I transferred into customer service. I was writing maintenance manuals for commercial jet aircraft and Gerry was my illustrator. He was maybe 10 years younger than me, but we got along well. I'd describe Gerry as a latter-day hippie, displaced in time but still very much in tune with 60's counterculture.
Gerry sported a goatee and a long fringe of hair hanging down from a well-established bald spot. He dressed the part too, in vintage clothing that reminded me of the older kids from when I was in junior high. The strangest, and perhaps most authentic, thing was that he seldom wore shoes. Gerry would usually come to work barefoot, even in icy weather. Of course, shoes were required in our corporate culture, so Gerry kept a pair of sandals under his desk for those occasions when management got on his case.
At first, I didn't give it much thought. Growing up in a rural area, I'd known others who routinely went unshod. They developed tough calluses resistant to stones and thistles. Certainly, an office environment is far friendlier to the bare foot. But one day I had an epiphany in the restroom. Several dozen men shared a pair of urinals, and by the end of the day, the overspray left a noticeable effect. I stepped back after finishing my business and felt the unmistakable adhesion of a sticky floor. Suddenly, I realized that Gerry had to share that same sticky spot, sans shoes, and I felt a bit nauseous.
A somewhat similar situation arose with the hand towels. The restroom was equipped with a couple of 'endless roller' cloth towels that would get rather damp by the end of the workday. There were many complaints about having to dry one's hands with a wet towel, and management finally put in paper towel dispensers instead. A coworker expressed relief that he no longer had to share an unsanitary towel.
I replied, "I'd rather share a towel with a man who washes his hands than share a doorknob with one who doesn't."
His face reminded me of how I'd felt about bare feet on the sticky floor.
Imagine your buddy asks for a ride to the mini mart. You’re not busy so you drive him down and listen to some tunes while he goes in for a six-pack. He grabs the beer from the cooler and then pulls a gun out of his pocket and robs the cashier on the way out. The instant you leave the parking lot, you become an accessory to armed robbery. It doesn’t matter whether you witnessed or even knew the crime had been committed. In the eyes of the law, you’re the getaway driver and ignorance is no excuse. You don’t have a choice, because your buddy chose for you.
This is exactly the situation for tens of millions of Magamobsters. Their good buddy set a conspiracy in motion that resulted in a crime, and they went along for the ride. They are co-conspirators regardless of intention or excuse. Dear leader made the choice for them. And they're subject to prosecution just as much as the accessory to armed robbery.
The law concerning criminal conspiracy is not entirely intuitive. It purposely casts a very wide net as a deterrent to those who profit most from organized crime. A charge of conspiracy requires only a criminal act and concerted efforts in support of that crime. Coordination of those concerted efforts need not be proven. The conspirators don’t have to be on a list, attend meetings, or even know each other. Conspiracy doesn’t require that the conspirator commit or even be present for the criminal act, only that they support it.
The events of Jan 6 were criminal. That’s a legally established fact. Many of the participants have already been found guilty and sentenced for their criminal actions. Many more criminal trials are scheduled. Members of the Oath Keepers have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy, so conspiracy has also been legally established. The Fox news-actors have given testimony in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit that they knowingly participated in the conspiracy. But Fox and the Oath Keepers didn’t act alone. The Jan 6 committee produced ample evidence in the form of texts and emails to establish that a much wider conspiracy exists.
The core of that wider conspiracy is the fraudulent claim that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election. The admitted goal of the conspiracy is to put a failed, one-term president back in office by overturning a valid election. There is no legal process to do this, but Donald Trump didn’t care about legality. Department of Justice officials have testified that Trump told them: “Just say that the election was corrupt . . . leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen”. We can only speculate that he expected corrupt court appointees to rule in his favor when the illegal actions were challenged. There is precedent for this belief. The Supreme Court interfered in the 2000 presidential election and awarded Florida’s electoral votes to George W. Bush.
So, the elements of crime and conspiracy are already proven. And the big lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election has been shown to be at the core of the conspiracy. That means everyone who helped spread the big lie is a co-conspirator. And it doesn’t matter whether they believed the lie, because ignorance is not an excuse under the law. Those who continue to spread the big lie are essentially pleading guilty with each and every utterance. The only question that remains is where to incarcerate 30 million hard-core Trump supporters. Their guilt is already established.
My wife is a woman of many talents, not least of which is her ability to disappear for long periods of time at the supermarket. I'm not talking about a long shopping trip while I wait at home. No, she can turn the corner at the end of the aisle and utterly vanish for five or ten minutes at a time while I wander around in confusion. These odd events usually coincide with my picking up a heavy, awkward, or frozen item. And no matter how many times it happens, I never seem to learn. In spite of my determined vigilance, she still manages to pull it off.
For example, she'll say, 'Oh we need a bag of potatoes' and then disappear with the cart as I walk back to pick it up. I can walk every aisle in the entire store, dangling a ten-pound bag of spuds, without ever seeing her. Or, she might say 'I forgot the milk. Will you grab a gallon and meet me at the checkout?' only to vanish entirely. I'm left holding the jug for what seems like hours as my hand slowly goes numb.
Our supermarket has about a dozen aisles with open space both at the front and at the back. I've tried to outwit her by standing at one corner and watching, but ten minutes can pass without her ever rounding the end of an aisle. And it doesn't matter whether I'm near the registers or back by the meat counter. Wherever I am, she's not. I've even considered asking the staff if she has an arrangement to duck into the back and watch me on the surveillance cameras, but I'm afraid they'll think I'm paranoid.
I'm not a paranoid! Really, I'm not. But if you see a guy at the supermarket, holding a frozen rump roast with a puzzled look on his face, please give him a little wink and nod in the direction of the woman hiding her cart behind the bread rack. He really needs to get a clue.
Einstein's theory of relativity suggests that time is not a constant. Rather, it depends on both perception and location. Time runs slower for an object perceived to have a high velocity relative to the observer. Time also runs slower for an object located in a strong gravitational field. These strange concepts are merely academic for those traveling together on a small blue planet at the same velocity and subject to the same gravity. Clocks anywhere on earth match to an extremely close degree of accuracy, but they do not match clocks in orbit or traveling in outer space.
The predictions of relativity became measurable with the advent of the space age, and they became a practical consideration when the Global Positioning System was designed. GPS satellites carry an atomic clock which is synchronized with a similar clock on earth. The high velocity of the clock in orbit causes it to run slow relative to the clock on earth. But the clock on earth is subject to a stronger gravitational field, so it runs slower than the clock in orbit. These effects cancel each other to some degree, but they don't have the same magnitude.
The original GPS clock software was designed with two different correction factors, one for velocity and another for gravity. Some scientists were still skeptical of relativity, so these correction factors were made optional. When the system went into operation, both factors were found to be necessary to achieve the desired results. Just as Einstein predicted.
The Grammy awards reminded me again of why we use the term album to refer to a singular disc. Some years ago, a friend of ours helped an elderly relative move to a nursing home. Part of the job was disposing of a large box of vinyl records. The newest LP in the box was AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap from 1981. That one was a pleasant outlier; it must have belonged to one of her kids. Most of the records were older and less interesting (to me at least). Artists included Elvis Presley, Eddie Arnold, The Lettermen, and Jackie Gleason. I had no idea that the pudgy comedian and actor released a series of LPs as a crooner.
There were also some older 78 rpm records in the box. These were 10 inches in diameter and held one song, up to three minutes long, on each side. The way they were packaged made the light bulb go on. Four records, totaling eight songs, came as a set from a single artist. The individual record sleeves were bound together in a slim cardboard book that opened up just like a photo album. Unfortunately, almost all the 78s were cracked from age and unplayable.
Today an artist might record on a vinyl LP, cassette tape, compact disc, or just drop a digital release, but we still buy their albums. And they just might win Album of the Year.
|Stooping ever lower . . .
Christmas Hymn by Noelle Dejoy
Communal Dining by Sharon A. Booth
Bottomless Plunge by Lucinda R. Shorts
Natural Pain Relief by Herb L. Baum
Just Say No by Will Powers
Smoothing the Bumps by Grady D. Rhodes
No Filter by Frank Lee Blount
And a themed series brought to you by Turpitude Publishing . . .
Overindulgence by Al Coe Hall
Horns of Desire by Hunter A. Hooker
Temptation Street by Celine Love
The Sting by Dee Coye Walker
Immoral Consequence by John N. Court
Love's last Memento by V. D. Case
See also: "The Bottom Shelf?"
In previous posts, I presented alternate perspectives on the highest height:
"How High is Up?"
"How Up is High?"
But should a discussion of the highest mountain be limited only to earthly heights? The same urge that impels us to climb trees and conquer peaks also drives us to reach for the heavens. There are eight planets in our solar system to be considered, and dozens of moons and dwarf planets, some of them as large as Mercury (we'll disregard moons smaller than Everest is tall).
There are at least ten peaks higher than Everest in our known celestial neighborhood. One is on Venus (35,000 ft), five are found on moons orbiting the gas giants (up to 65,000 ft), and four are found on the red planet. Mars boasts a truly astonishing peak, Olympus Mons, that rises more than 13 miles above the surrounding terrain. Olympus Mons may have been the last gasp from a once active volcanic core. Its enormous base covers an area the size of Arizona, and its symmetrical cone rises to 72,000 feet.
We have an accurate picture of Olympic Mons thanks to the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft which reached Mars orbit in 1997. It used infrared laser pulses to measure the distance of the MGS spacecraft to the Martian surface. The data sent back to earth was used to create precise topographic maps in preparation for the more recent Mars rover missions.
So, is Olympus Mons the highest peak in our solar system? Again, that depends on perspective. The asteroid Vesta has a 'peak' that rises 80,000 feet from the center of an impact crater. The height of this feature was revealed in photographs taken by the Hubble telescope and confirmed by NASA in 2011 with the Dawn spacecraft. Whether this prominent feature qualifies as a mountain is a matter of opinion. It certainly wouldn't pose much of a challenge for a climber. Vesta has a gravity only 2% that of Earth. An athletic person could easily leap hundreds of feet on Vesta.
From the perspective of a mountaineer, I'd suggest Olympus Mons as the ultimate challenge in our solar system. Mars gravity is only 38% that of Earth, but the thin Martian atmosphere and extreme cold would require protection similar to a space suit. Climbing with the encumbrance of protective gear would largely offset the lower gravity. And a 13-mile elevation gain is equivalent to doing a vertical half-marathon.
|In yesterday's post, I presented a perspective that shows Mt. Chimborazo in Ecuador as the highest peak in the world. Robert Waltz responded with another perspective that favors Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Mauna Kea is only 13,800 feet above sea level but presents the most challenging climb in the world with a total height of 30,610 ft from its underwater base to its icy peak. But who could even dream of such a climb?
Oh! I have sliced through surface bonds of sea
And met the sky on silver-scaled fin;
Gazing up to snowcapped heights above me
Through misting cloud where fish has never been.
Long I dreamed this ecstasy of motion
Mountain's root begets imperative idea;
Fly from too familiar depths of ocean
And joyful soar 'round slopes of Mauna Kea.